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To Light A Spark

Dear Janeane

July 19, 2009

So, I'm hanging out in my cool temporary pad in Iowa City, home of the super cool Iowa Summer Writers' Festival. Good times. I'm watching TV. The place I'm renting has free HBO—also good times. I flip through the channels. I run into a Janeane Garofalo stand-up show on HBO2. Janeane Garofalo is one of my favorite actresses. Sweet.

But then I hear what she's saying. "Well, I guess I consider myself secular. I mean, I respect people who are religious, but why is it that I can respect them, but when I speak my mind, they think they can stand on the mountaintops and scream at me to shut up?"

"If you think about it, all conflicts in the world are in some way related to religion. The Taliban. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And even if they aren't about the religion, exactly, the seed for the violence was planted in these books, these great fictional works of literature. Oh, you don't need to applaud that."

And then she goes on to say some things I can't print here.

Oh Janeane. I thought we were friends. Why did you have to do that to me? You're so funny, why did you have to hurt my feelings?

But the thing is, when I really think about it, what she says make sense (well, except for the fiction thing). I mean, aren't most religions the cause for strife and warfare today? Isn't it true that the world is flush with intolerant, hypocritical religious people?

The answer is a resounding yes. And man, that hurts! Here I am, thinking I'm on the good side. And a simple stand-up show by Janeane has brought my world crashing down around me. Oh, HBO, you'll be the death of me yet!

We are all desperately looking for answers. We are all confused. So many of us "religious" folk just don't act the way we should. Think of the sex scandals in the church. The riots in Jerusalem. Terrorism. Man, we've just about caused the world to fall down around us, and all in the name of the G‑d who told us to do the opposite. Crazy!

What's a simple Jewish boy to do? "Throw his hands up in the air and give up," it seems like Janeane's trying to tell me. Or maybe look to science as some sort of alternative to religion. Okay, I understand the logic.

But something seems missing to me. It seems a little empty. It's hard for me to put my finger on it, I'll be honest. Part of me is tempted to just say what about hope and faith and all that good stuff? But it's not enough. I know it.

Oh, Janeane.

And so I try to think of what I would say to her if she were here. If we could have a nice sit down chat. A frank talk over some tea. First, I'd have to tell her that she hurt my feelings. I think she would understand.

But how do I explain that feeling in me? That feeling I know is real. How can I share the understanding that these books are so much more than stories? That the G‑d she sees as a ridiculous invention can actually complement science?

All I see is her giving me a sarcastic smile, finishing her tea, and getting up to leave.

Oh Janeane, you broke my heart again.

Through my pain, I'm seeing an answer. I'm seeing the only way to respond to her—the only way to react to the Ricky Dawkins crowd that feels justifiably slighted by the religious folks that surround us all.

I need to be the answer. I need to show that not all of us people who ridiculously, blindly follow those wacky words in that crazy book are bad folks. Some of us even use our beliefs to create a positive world. A world that could not exist without us. An elevated world. Being a role model is the only real answer to any real question.

Janeane, you broke my heart. But I forgive you. You see, I'm a role model now.

Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.

Once Upon a Story

July 5, 2009

When I write, I wait. I meditate. A day passes. Another. A week.

Finally, I am ready. I have thought everything through. I have inspired myself.

And I write.

But then the bizarre happens. As the letters fly from my fingers, I lose control. The seed that started this process is growing on its own.

I watch in fascination as the seed grows into a plant. Into something I never envisioned.

The fruit drops from the tree. People gather around to taste my creation.

They enjoy it.

I say to myself, "So somehow it worked this time. Next time, I need to stay in control. I need to stick to the plan."

And so I meditate. A day passes. Another. A week.

And it happens all over again.

And again.

Scrub. Rinse. Repeat.

For months, this was how I approached my writing. I needed to be inspired. The letters had to be surgically, painfully removed from my brain.

This began bothering me. Would my writing always slide like a slug? Slowly, in a direction it never even realized it was heading?

An answer hit me from afar. A great writer in Toronto, whom I wrote to for advice, told me to just sit and write. Every day. No matter what.

Was he crazy? I needed inspiration. I needed to build up a creation in my brain, and let it fly. A self-contained ball of truth.

But then I thought back. To the first day I ever wrote a story. I shrugged aside years of wishing I had written, and I simply wrote. I didn't think. I wrote.

And out came a story. Out of nothing. No plan. No meditating.

This was the first time I began to truly believe in G‑d.

And now it made sense. Inspiration, creativity, is not self-generated. It comes from our Creator. Through us.

No one "creates" anything. We are the vessels of creation. Out of us, infinity flows.

And so it is with all challenges. With all blank pages of paper. No matter how many pages we are presented, we can fill them. Every time we don't know how to act or what to do, we must remember that G‑d is with us. When we allow His energy to flow through our souls and into the world, we can light all of eternity.

Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.
People travel around the world searching for it. They starve themselves for it. They scream, they cry and they beg for it.

“It” is that little thing called meaning. Truth.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just bang two rocks together and find It? What if we could save money on airplane tickets and seminars and find that meaning in our own lives?

Join me on my journey through the infinite without even resorting to a midlife crisis.
Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.